“You’re right as far as you go; but you don’t go to the eating part. We’ll starve, an’ we ain’t got no water. I can drink about a bucketful right now,” moodily replied his companion.
“Well, yo’re right; but mebby we can find food an’ water.”
“Don’t see no signs of none. Hey!” Johnny exclaimed, smiling faintly in his misery. “Let’s get busy an’ burn the cussed thing up! Got any matches?”
“First you want to drown yoreself swimming, an’ now you want to roast the pair of us to death,” Hopalong retorted, eyeing the rear wall of the room. “Wonder what’s on the other side of that partition?”
Johnny looked. “Why, water; an’ lots of it, too.”
“Naw; the water is on the other sides.”
“Then how do I know?—sh! I hear somebody coming on the roof.”
“Tumble back in yore bunk—quick!” Hopalong hurriedly whispered. “Be asleep—if he comes down here it’ll be our deal.”
The steps overhead stopped at the companionway and a shadow appeared across the small patch of sunlight on the floor of the forecastle. “Tumble up here, you blasted loafers!” roared a deep voice.
No reply came from the forecastle—the silence was unbroken.
“If I have to come down there I’ll—” the first mate made promises in no uncertain tones and in very impolite language. He listened for a moment, and having very good ears and hearing nothing, made more promises and came down the ladder quickly and nimbly.
“I’ll bring you to,” he muttered, reaching a brawny hand for Hopalong’s nose, and missing. But he made contact with his own face, which stopped a short-arm blow from the owner of the aforesaid nose, a jolt full of enthusiasm and purpose. Beautiful and dazzling flashes of fire filled the air and just then something landed behind his ear and prolonged the pyrotechnic display. When the skyrockets went up he lost interest in the proceedings and dropped to the floor like a bag of meal.
Hopalong cut another piece from the rope in his hand and watched his companion’s busy fingers. “Tie him good, Johnny; he’s the only ace we’ve drawn in this game so far, an’ we mustn’t lose him.”
Johnny tied an extra knot for luck and leaned forward, his eyes riveted on the bump under the victim’s coat. His darting hand brought into sight that which pleased him greatly. “Oh, joy! Here, Hoppy; you take it.”
Hopalong turned the weapon over in his hand, spun the cylinder and gloated, the clicking sweet music to his ears. “Plumb full, too! I never reckoned I’d ever be so tickled over a snub-nosed gun like this—but I feel like singing!”
“An’ I feel like dying,” grunted Johnny, grabbing at his stomach. “If the blamed shack would only stand still!” he groaned, gazing at the floor with strong disgust. “I don’t reckon I’ve ever been so blamed sick in all my—” the sentence was unfinished, for the open porthole caught his eye and he leaped forward to use it for a collar.